President Report April 2019

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Dear AFMW members,
 
Last month I attended CSW 63 in New York city. Amazing, and worth the effort. I did 8 full days in a row, and can recommend this as an immersion experience in international campaigning for gender equity from all continents.
 
A follow-up each year to the famous ‘Beijing Platform for Action for Women’ now held 24 years ago now, this UN Women’s meeting comprises 9000 delegates from more than 165 countries. For me it was a wonderful experience to be part of a teeming throng of women everywhere at the UN and its surrounding buildings near New York’s East Riverside, for simultaneously,  official events, orientation events, UN Tours, NGO workshops, corridor art and policy displays, permanent displays, and informal contributions within the UN’s structure itself, its NGOs, and member country delegates.
 
Reflections about the highlights for me include a workshop explaining the practical aspects of using inclusive-language guide (in the UN’s 6 languages), the Nigerian women doctors session about campaigns against child marriage and for availability of contraception, the Holy See on Human Rights, and the general mood that women were, and ought to be,  ‘everywhere’, just everywhere,  in public life.
Kelly O’Dwyer MP our Minister for Women from Australia gave our country’s 5 minutes in the General Assembly, as part of the presentations from the equivalent government delegates from 161 countries held, and broadcast on UN TV, over a few days. UN TV shows that you all can watch include the Town Hall with the Secretary General of the UN (Former PM of Portugal) whose diplomatic skills were exemplary and seemed smoothly authentic in answering questions without notice from the floor from delegates of many continents.
 
The ‘agreed resolutions’ process is mirrored in the MWIA Ethics and Resolutions processes, another useful link to make between women doctors internationally. Convened after WW2’s European holocaust, the UN itself, at its core, focuses on promoting peace keeping, and promoting full citizenship for all individuals living on the earth. The UN has strict, formal, diplomatic processes that are sometimes seemingly glacial change, but with the intent of bringing along all countries in the world, in the end.
 
Gender and Millenium Development Goals (MDG) and Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) were the hot topics. Child marriage, full reproductive rights, dowry abuse, widow abuse, blindness, sexual violence, are challenges that link in, through the notion of ‘Women’s Rights are Human Rights’,  advocating for the right to full participation and opportunity in public life for women in any country. The intensity of effort put into gender equity goals in multiple facets was striking.
 
Pushback against the UN itself, and international journalists’ experience about pushback against freedom of the press, made for interesting, live TV contributions. Enrolling business itself via the Women’s Empowerment Principles is something to which the UN is coming. Variants such as the ‘He for She’ campaigns, and the Australian contribution to the ‘Male Champions of Change’ movement were strong contributions held in the UN building.
 
The current medical director of the UN, Dr Jillian Farmer started her career in Rockhampton, Queensland, and she gave an inspiring talk about her medical career for the 25 or so captivated medical students. A session with the Unicef leaders was inspiring. The medical students presented their gender research posters at the UN Australian High Commission / Consulate, and at the Fordham University event about refugee rights. All students spoke highly of their intense immersion experiences in inter-professional learning and international health advocacy under Professor Gaye Casper’s stewardship.
Inter-professional collaborations occurred on the spot where the Australian delegates included medico-legal experts in violence against women, and policy makers from women’s health and Premier and Cabinet in various levels of Australian government. The smoothly connecting direct Qantas flights to NY via LA, 24 hours each way, and an hour in each of the MONA (Jackson Pollock, Picasso, and Vincent’s Sunflowers) and the Metropolitan Museum’s mummies and rooftop were also highlights. NGOs such as the International Council of Women and Business and Professional Women International, the Soroptimists, and numerous other international associations were visibly active, engaging with their member countries official delegates, and making fruitful policy making links.
 
I also attended an Australian Rural Women’s Health Alliance, and a New Zealand transgender rights panel session. The Ethiopian plane crash, causing at least 10 deaths of UN staff, and the Christchurch massacre believed to be driven by notions of white supremacy were two palpably sad events which occurred during the CSW63 itself. This year’s theme was ….gender infrastructure.
 
The ‘code grey’ alarms at 2am in our NY hotel in United States Plaza required your 3 AFMW reps (Lydia Pitcher, Naseera and myself ) to hastily grab passports and puffy jackets, and vacate, in various nightwear, our hotel building’s tower by running down 33 flights of stairs! Not knowing whether or not we were destined for some hours in the zero temperature outside, but fearing capture by whatever had triggered the alarm system, we wondered if it was fire, guns, bombs or worse?  The offender turned out to be a lone hotel guest on drugs, who managed to randomly remove alarms around several floors of the hotel for an hour or so, while we observed what I now recall as a rather splendid array of dozens of NY Fire Department personnel, Ambulance and Police, rivalling a passé TV cop show. As the hours in the hotel lobby ticked by, and the handcuffs came out, it emerged that we were not in fact in any danger, so we returned wearily, fortunately by lift, back to our hotel beds.
 
This year so far your Executive and Council have looked towards streamlining our AFMW Secretariat costs, sent our support to our colleagues, the Christchurch NZ MWIA individual members, offered networking to support the NSW non-accredited trainee whose blog about her severe fatigue and seeming workplace abuse sparked worldwide ‘viral’ interest. On a longer term note, the Council have been looking strategically at the core organizational model under which AFMW operates, and identified expanded funding opportunities through grant-writing. My heartfelt thanks to all those who work so hard to keep our organization afloat, and more.
 
To New York again for me for MWIA this July. We have contributed history, messages of congratulations on the MWIA Centennial, have expressions of interest so far from at least a dozen AFMW members attending, and many scientific talks and posters to contribute there. More information is at www.mwia.org website.
 
Best wishes,
 
Deb Colville
President
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